The Peach State will soon be putting even more of its sunshine to good use. Nashville-based solar energy company Silicon Ranch will construct an 850-acre, 100-megawatt (MW) solar farm that will bring around 300 jobs to southwest Georgia.
The Tennessee-based company has chosen Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives (IEA) – an Indianapolis builder – to develop the Lumpkin, Georgia plant. In a press release, the construction company confirmed that the majority of workers IEA plans to hire for the project will be selected from the state’s local labor pool.
Construction on the Stewart County solar facility is set to begin immediately and is slated for a late 2021 completion date, according to IEA.
“IEA is very pleased to again partner with Silicon Ranch to bring additional renewable energy sources to Georgia,” said Joe Broom, IEA’s Senior Vice President of Solar Construction Operations. “Georgia ranks among the top ten states in the nation for total solar capacity installed. We are proud that we can support Georgia in meeting the growing demand for clean, renewable power in the state.”
The solar array will be part of Silicon Ranch’s portfolio of six projects it is contracted to complete for Walton Electric Membership Corporation (EMC). Facebook selected Walton EMC to supply renewable energy for its Newton County, Georgia data center, and Silicon Ranch and Walton EMC have “executed six contracts totaling 435 MWAC of new renewable energy generation to support Facebook’s operations in Georgia.”
Last year, IEA and Silicon Ranch worked together to install the Appling Solar Farm in southeastern Georgia. The 25 MW solar site, now operational, is also part of the Facebook renewable initiative.
“One of the many qualities that make Georgia a great place for business is the wonderful workforce in the state,” said Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Reagan Farr. “More than 1,000 Georgians have already helped us build projects that serve Facebook and Walton EMC. Silicon Ranch is pleased to partner again with IEA to expand this legacy to Stewart County and the surrounding region, and we thank our partners at Walton EMC and Facebook for making the Lumpkin Solar Farm and this meaningful investment possible.”
Silicon Ranch is one of the Nation’s largest independent solar power producers, with solar facilities in 15 states coast-to-coast including several in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arizona.
The company developed the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and recently contracted its first projects in Kentucky and South Carolina, Corporate Communications Manager Rob Hamilton confirmed to Consensus.
During an interview, Hamilton explained how Silicon Ranch couples its solar projects with Regenerative Energy – a “product that combines clean electricity generation with carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration, and rural revitalization.”
“Our view toward our facilities is we really are constantly trying to create and design a better facility for the solar industry,” he said. “We are implementing regenerative energy – this holistic land management platform we’ve designed that co-locates regenerative agriculture and solar power production.”
The company partners with regenerative ranchers to train local farmers and deploy holistic farming practices at its solar plants and will do so at the Lumpkin site, according to Hamilton.
“Under these practices, adaptively-managed grazing animals, diverse native plants, pollinator habitat, and wildlife work together to revitalize degraded soils, enhance biodiversity and make ecosystems more resilient, improve watersheds, sequester carbon in the soil and above-ground biomass, and strengthen rural economies,” according to the company’s site.
Practices like these help prevent erosion and strengthen soil structure – making the land usable for future generations, Hamilton added. Moreover, regenerative farming can create land management jobs.
Georgia has recently established itself as a nationwide leader in solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state ranks ninth in the U.S. for solar electric capacity with 2,668 MW installed – the equivalent of more than 310,000 homes supplied by solar energy.
Between 2018 and 2019, the number of solar-related jobs in the state jumped from around 3,700 to nearly 4,800, putting Georgia first for its rate of growth (30 percent) and second to Florida in total jobs added.
Stewart County Manager Mac Moye told Columbus, Georgia’s WRBL, “It’s pretty extraordinary, we have one industry that employs a lot of people, the impact is just incredible upon the county. People have wanted jobs, we certainly are aware of the need for jobs here and these jobs are good-paying jobs. People are eager if I could say one thing about it, people want to work.” Moye also told the outlet that he believes the solar farm could let local companies provide additional jobs in Lumpkin.